The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) licenses and regulates various law enforcement-related occupations, including licensed peace officers, county corrections officers or jailers, agency chief administrators, telecommunications officers, and constables. Individuals must satisfy certain requirements to meet licensing standards, and TCOLE may only issue individuals initial or renewal licenses if they meet those standards.
As part of its duties, TCOLE also receives complaints against these individuals and takes disciplinary action as needed concerning matters over which it has jurisdiction. Complaints, disciplinary actions, and non-renewal of your law enforcement license can be devastating. Without a license, you cannot work as a law enforcement professional, leaving you without the career you have planned or already built.
Enlisting the help of a law enforcement license defense lawyer can help you fight back against license denial or disciplinary action that may affect your license. With legal assistance, you may also be able to negotiate the best possible resolution of the matter before TCOLE and safeguard your career.
Requirements for Law Enforcement Licensure
The requirements for initial law enforcement licensure are extensive due to the nature of the profession. Under 37 Tex. Admin. Code §217.1, aside from minimum age and educational requirements, licensure applicants must:
- Undergo fingerprinting and be subject to local, state, and federal records and fingerprint files to disclose any criminal records;
- Have never been on community supervision or probation for any criminal offense above the grade of a Class B misdemeanor or a Class B misdemeanor within the past ten years from the date of the court order;
- Not be facing any criminal charges that would be a bar to licensure;
- Have never been convicted of any criminal offense above the grade of a Class B misdemeanor or a Class B misdemeanor within the past ten years;
- Have never been convicted of or placed on community supervision in any court for an offense involving family violence;
- Not be prohibited by state or federal law from operating a motor vehicle or possessing firearms or ammunition (for peace officers);
- Have undergone a background investigation that the appointing agency has verified;
- Have undergone a physical examination that shows them to be physically sound and free from any defect which may adversely affect their performance of duty and no trace of drug dependency or illegal drug use;
- Have undergone a psychiatric examination that shows them to be in satisfactory psychological and emotional health to serve as an officer;
- Have never received a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. armed forces;
- Have never had a TCOLE license denied by final order or revoked;
- Not currently be on suspension or have a surrender of license currently in effect;
- Meeting minimum training standards and passing commission licensing examinations;
- Be a U.S. citizen
When applying for license renewal, TCOLE may not require an applicant to provide unchanged criminal history information already provided. However, under Tex. Occ. Code §1701.351, TCOLE may require an applicant to provide information relevant to the period since the date of the applicant’s last application for licensure or license renewal or relevant to any new license requirement.
Under Tex. Occ. Code §1701.312, a felony conviction disqualifies an individual from being an officer, public security officer, telecommunicator, or county jailer. In addition, an entry of an adjudication of guilt against the individual by a court disqualifies the individual from obtaining a law enforcement license regardless of whether the sentence is probated and the individual is discharged from community supervision, the charges are dismissed, and the person is released from all penalties relating to the crime, or the person is pardoned. The only exception is if the person is explicitly pardoned based on proof of innocence of the crime.
Tex. Occ. Code §1701.501 authorizes TCOLE to revoke or suspend a license, place an individual whose license has been suspended on probation, or reprimand an individual holding a license for violating any provision of this code section, reporting requirements outlined in the Code of Criminal Procedure, or a TCOLE rule. TCOLE may revoke a law enforcement license only if the license holder is convicted of a felony or a criminal offense that directly involves the individual’s duties as an officer.
TCOLE also can impose administrative penalties under Tex. Occ. Code §1701.507. An administrative penalty may not exceed $1,000 per day per violation. The amount of the penalty shall be based on the following:
- the seriousness of the violation;
- the respondent’s history of violations;
- the amount necessary to deter future violations;
- efforts made by the respondent to correct the violation; and
- any other matter that justice may require.
Right to Administrative Hearings
Under Tex. Occ. Code §1701.504, if TCOLE takes action to suspend or revoke a law enforcement license, the individual is entitled to an administrative hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) at the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH). Similarly, if TCOLE refuses to renew a law enforcement license, the individual is entitled to such a hearing.
Appealing TCOLE Orders
Individuals who wish to challenge TCOLE final orders further can appeal by following the provisions of Tex. Govt. Code §2001. Tex. Occ. Code §1701.506 states that the court shall set a hearing on the matter no earlier than ten days after TCOLE and its attorney receives notice of the appeal. The court also has the power to suspend a TCOLE action during the pendency of the appeal.
Get Legal Representation Today to Help Safeguard Your Law Enforcement License
Receiving notice of a denial of licensure or disciplinary proceedings against your law enforcement license can be unexpected and disappointing. However, having a law enforcement license defense attorney on your team can be essential to a positive outcome in your case. You can reach the offices of Bertolino LLP, by calling (512) 515-9518 today or filling out our contact form online.